Thursday, July 30, 2015

North to Athabasca


North to Athabasca, by David C. Curran (Pub. by Hellgate Press, Ashland, OR, 2010, 130 pp.,B&W illus.)

David Curran, Ph.D., is a psychologist that has plenty of experience solo canoe/camping in Maine.  He decided to he wanted to change his experience to something more remote.  After looking through the maps and trip descriptions of Saskatchewan, he decided on the remote, seldom traveled MacFarlane River from Brudell Lake, north and through Davy Lake, and on to Lake Athabasca.    It should take about a week to ten days.  He reluctantly invited a family friend, Walter, mainly to settle the concerns of his wife.  Walter unexpectedly jumped at the chance.  It turned out they made a great paddling duo, and had a wonderful trip.

Even though it was June, there was ice on the lakes, raising concerns over it possibly packing into an entry into or exit from a lake to create long delays or longer portages.  They flew onto Brudell Lake and didn’t even make it to shore, making their departure right from the plane’s float.  The author had kept it a secret, but started the trip with a bad back, and that was a constant concern over whether his own weakness would sabotage the trip.  The back strengthened with time and the exercise, however, and the only injuries were badly cracked hands and a machete injury that sliced a couple fingers.

The only time they got lost was when they reached their destination.  Paddling out into Lake Athabasca and heading up the shore, they sought a point of land with two off-lying small islands.  They finally saw a float plane and realized they had mistakenly paddled past the lodge where they were to be picked up.  The maps they were using were 25 years old, and a long Canadian drought had caused the islands to join the point of land.  This drove the lesson home that everything in paddling and camping is always about remembering that expectations and reality are often not the same, and that one must always be prepared to adapt and improvise. 

The bottom line is that the book is well written, clearly relates the experiences they shared, and tells of their encounters with wildlife that had seldom met man before.  It is an enjoyable and worthwhile read.

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